Saturday, July 25, 2020

"Fake" by Alexander O'Neal

Song#:  3205
Date:  07/25/1987
Debut:  85
Peak:  25
Weeks:  15
Genre:  R&B, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  Originally from Mississippi, O'Neal made the move to Minneapolis in the early 70s and began performing with several local bands. After nearly being part of a Prince-signed band (see below), he ended up getting signed as a solo artist with Tabu Records. The writing/production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who had already been writing and producing for other Tabu artists like The S.O.S. Band and Cherrelle, were brought in along with Monte Moir to write and produce O'Neal's 1985 self-titled debut album. It would do well spawning a pair of R&B Top 20s and reaching #21 on the R&B chart. Then O'Neal got an extra boost when he recorded "Saturday Love," a duet with Cherrelle that was from her second solo disc High Priority. That song got to #2 R&B and #26 Pop. This setup O'Neal well for his second LP, Hearsay. All tracks save for one were written by Jam and Lewis with the duo producing the whole album. This first single was released and it became O'Neal's first and only song to top the R&B chart. It also hit #7 at Dance. The song then crossed over to Pop where it got to #25, which would end up being his best effort on that chart. The album would become O'Neal's biggest hit reaching #2 R&B/#29 Pop. It would also reach gold-level sales.

ReduxReview:  This definitely had Jam and Lewis' hands all over it. The funky Minneapolis groove, staccato keyboards, synth sweeps, and crisp production were telltale signs of their work. It was also quite reminiscent of work they did as members of The Time. It was another hit for the team and it didn't hurt that their former Flyte Tyme lead singer O'Neal was up front. The trio's history together certainly worked in O'Neal's favor as he sounded perfectly at home on this track. While Jam and Lewis would have far bigger crossover hits, this was still a tasty single from the earlier part of their career. Unfortunately, it has kind of gotten lost over time. Also, I think O'Neal's album may be the first headed up by Jam and Lewis to incorporate interludes between songs. They would apply that technique to great effect on their second LP with Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation 1814.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In the late 70s, O'Neal would become the lead singer of Flyte Tyme, a popular Minneapolis funk band that included future superstar songwriters/producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. O'Neal got the job after original lead singer, Cynthia Johnson, left the band (she would go on to sing the lead vocals on "Funkytown," the 1979 #1 hit by Lipps Inc.). When Prince was looking to expand his footprint and form a band that would basically be the face for his own songs and productions, he found Flyte Tyme. He would get the band signed but there would be changes. O'Neal would be out as lead singer and replaced by Morris Day and the band's name would change to The Time. That band would go on to have some solid success, but by 1983 Jam and Lewis had been fired from the band. They had already been writing/producing for other artists, so being free of The Time gave them the opportunity to expand their new business, which included working for Tabu artists The S.O.S. Band and Cherrelle. With O'Neal now on the label, that gave the old Flyte Tyme members the opportunity to work together again.


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